2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
“Return with us now to those thrilling days of
yesteryear when the Masked Rider of the Plains led the fight for law
and justice in the early west! Hear the thundering hoof beats of the
great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
The Masked Man and his faithful Indian companion
Tonto have all but faded from the popular imagination. That’s a real
shame. We’ve never been in more need of the virtues the Ranger
embodied. Though he wore a mask, the Lone Ranger stood for truth and
honesty. He transformed a symbol of theft and deceit into a dark
harbinger of justice.
Bad as I hate to admit it, the Ranger’s disguise
was the exception to the rule. Our text doesn’t mention masks as
such, but it speaks of the dangers of deceit and the need for truth –
even when the truth isn’t very flattering.
Let’s be wise to the seductive lure of the Lie. Heed Paul’s warnings against hiding, covering, and masking ourselves.
Don’t hide your weakness.
In Paul’s brilliant defense of his ministry, he
tackles his critics in an engagingly subversive way. Lacking the
glory of the “super-apostles” with whom the Corinthians were so taken
(2 Cor. 11:5), Paul refuses to deny his human weakness. He won’t be
like Moses, who hid his face so that the fickle Israelites wouldn’t
notice the passing glory (3:13). He refuses to mask his own
humanity. Rather, as he declares elsewhere, “we have this treasure in
earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7).
God hasn’t given the task of saving the world to
super-heroes. He’s given it to those who place their humanity in His
big, strong hands.
Some of the most effective ministers I’ve known
were the weakest vessels. David Ring can barely talk because of
Cerebral Palsy, yet he has stirred thousands with his preaching. He
hides nothing. Rather, he displays the power of God in a frail human
life. I know two elderly ladies who have a hard time getting around,
but hurting people beat a path to their door. They know they’ll
receive wisdom, comfort, and encouragement from this dynamic duo.
Of course, in order to know His power in us, to see it flowing from us, we must first see our need. Therefore . . .
Don’t cover your eyes.
Paul writes sadly of his fellow Jews whose eyes
are covered with a “veil” (3:14-15). Jesus said, “You diligently
study the scriptures . . . the scriptures that testify about me”
(John 5:39). They pored over Moses and the Prophets, but failed to
see where they were pointing. As my Dad might’ve said, “They couldn’t
see for lookin’!”
I constantly pray that, when I expound the Word of
God, eyes will really see and ears will really hear. I pray even
harder that my “vessel,” though cracked and stained, will be clean.
I’ve heard a lot about “Lone Rangers” in the ministry. What scares me
more are masked riders in the pulpit. Paul admonishes us preachers,
then, saying . . .
Don’t mask your sin!
I don’t mean flaunt your sin. I don’t mean feel
free to disobey the Lord. I mean live an honest and open life. Live
as a free person – free to love others with every word and deed.
How many preachers and church leaders have fallen?
How many churches have been damaged on account of stealth and
cunning? Eugene Petersen’s paraphrase is helpful here: “We refuse
to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind
the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather,
we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on
display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves
in the presence of God” (4:2).
The whole truth on display. As another faded
pop-culture character might’ve put it, “I yam what I yam and thas’
all I yam!” In a world of masked men and veiled women, may the Lord
give us courage to walk and talk the truth.
Sermon brief provided by: Gary Robinson, a Church of Christ
minister in Conneautville, PA.